Sometimes it seems that contemporary Christians have the attention span of humming birds. We flit from task to task, distraction to distraction. Sure we’re working hard. We’re meeting our obligations. But our days are ruled by the crisis du jour, interspersed with escapist entertainment. String enough of these busy days together and we risk lifetimes of mindless, soulless busyness. So it’s a blessing that, before we get multi-tasked into a spiritual stupor… Advent is back again.
It seems a stretch to call a season of waiting a blessing. No one is happy when they learn they have to wait. We associate waiting with dentists’ offices and traffic jams. Life has taught us that waiting is the inactive, meaningless period we must pass through before we can get to the active, meaningful stuff. Sure, Advent is a time of waiting. But when it’s done right, it’s far from meaningless and inactive. It’s a time of joyful, creative waiting.
Isaiah 40:31 tells us: They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings of eagles; they shall run and not be weary. It’s a sports truism that victory is won on the practice field. Triumph is in the training, conditioning and preparing for the contest. The same is true for life. While we cannot foresee every contingency and crisis, we must be spiritually forearmed. We must prepare for the hard-knocks and gut-shots life always has in store. Anticipation… contemplation… examination… preparation… that’s what Lent and Advent are for. Thank you, Lord. To paraphrase the hit song from “Mame”… We need a little Advent now!
This Sunday’s gospel nails the spirit of the season. Jesus tells us to snap out of it. Get our priorities straight. Stay awake. Get ready. The Lord is coming. Being serenely, confidently prepared… being as one with Christ…that’s what’s important in life.
In our hyper-caffeinated world, while we’re coping with high levels of family, job, social and economic stress, there’s little chance of literally falling asleep on God. But there is a major risk of falling into routines that leave no room for him…that drag us down in a succession of hectic, Godless days. We certainly don’t set out to disrespect God, but indirectly we’re telling him that he’s got to wait his turn. We have so many more pressing things to do. Advent is an opportunity to snap that spiral…to put Jesus back in the center of our lives.
Grace is a gift from God. But grace is no guarantee of holiness. We must cooperate with God’s grace to nurture holiness. We must protect it, grow it and give it back to God. It’s the healthiest habit we can ever have. It builds character, serenity, joy…all the great, good things of a vigorous Christian life. And it all starts with staying spiritually awake, being prepared for Christ’s coming, welcoming him into our lives every day… not as a vague abstraction, but as the driving force. It is a very tall order. Merely wishing won’t make it so. We have to work at it. And that’s where Advent comes in again.
Let’s not wait for God to knock. Invite him in every morning in Advent. Start the day with a greeting. Praise the Lord. Thank him. Ask Jesus to stay with you through the day. Then check back as the day goes on: before meals, between tasks, in breaks, on errands. Make Jesus an integral part of your routines. It’s the very best thing you can do with your day. Then end the day with Jesus. Tell him your problems. He’ll help sort them out. Get up the next day and do it all again. Keep at it. And pretty soon you’ll find far greater peace and purpose in all you do. Soon you’ll be able to say: “I’m ready Lord”…and really mean it, because you will be.
That’s the joy of Advent. It’s the joy of waiting on the Lord.
The Reverend David Sellery, Episcopal Priest, Author, and Coach. Fr. Sellery presently serves as Priest-in-Charge, St. John’s Salisbury, CT. Fr. Sellery has excelled at using new media to increase outreach beyond the Church doors via his website, blog posts, and podcasts.